The Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, is going to the 10th National Assembly as the representative of Ebonyi South Senatorial District. He has earned his badge.
As a member of the All Progressives Congress, he stood out as the most credible voice of the party in the South East.
Umahi, a civil engineer, has been one of the best performing governors in the country using limited resources available to the state to outperform governors of states with deeper pockets.
In terms of infrastructure, including roads, education, healthcare and agriculture, among others, Umahi towers above many in his class of governors. This makes him an asset to the APC and a huge pride of Ndigbo as a leader with capacity, competence, character, scholarship and vision.
As a member of the Red Chamber in the 10th National Assembly, it would not be out of place to consider him as the next president of the Senate. Several factors would determine his candidacy for the number three position in the nation’s power ranking. The first is that the APC, the party of the President-elect, must first zone the Senate Presidency to the South East. And there are strong reasons why the party should zone this all-important legislative position to the South East.
The South East zone was thought to be the zone that would produce the president in the ongoing election. It was favoured on account of the obvious marginalisation and alienation of the zone from the presidency since 1999 and beyond. The zone is home to the five states that constitute the third largest ethnic group in Nigeria, the Igbo.
During the eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC, other ethnic groups have held very senior positions in the national power hierarchy for more than once. Not so the South East. And it is not for want of eminently qualified persons. The South East is the nest of intellectual giants, maverick business people, visionary leaders and innovators, men and women endowed with the requisite skills set for leadership in the 21st Century. Among these men and women, Umahi stands out both in scholarship, content and ability to innovate solutions.
On a personal note and in clear consideration of the attributes and qualities expected of a modern day president of the Senate, Umahi has shown as governor that leadership in the democratic space is not by decrees and the invocation of high-handed ordinances. It is about engaging the people, about recognising the plurality of a community, about being a good listener just so the leader can act fairly and justly. As governor for eight years, Umahi proved a good listener and acted positively to innovate solutions for the challenges staring down at his people.
The people of Ebonyi said they wanted infrastructure, especially road infrastructure, to enable them move their agricultural produce, Ebonyi being an agrarian state. As a response to their request, Umahi applied his civil engineering skill to turn the state into a huge construction site. To this day, Ebonyi has the best and most durable road network in the South East complete with bridges to ease traffic within the Abakaliki metropolis. Unlike in some states where infrastructural development is limited to city centres and state capitals, in Umahi’s Ebonyi, they extend to rural areas and the most far-flung places within the confine of the state. And these he achieved using mostly local contractors and direct labour with locally-sourced materials. He is the chief promoter of local content, one of the cardinal policies of the Buhari government.
Besides, Umahi is a Christian. His candidacy will help balance the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the APC. While it can be argued that religion should not be the overriding factor to determine who leads the 10th National Assembly, integrity, intellect and character must never be discountenanced. Here, again, Umahi stands out. He does not carry the burden of corruption or any other act of criminality so defined by the laws of the land. His style of leadership is a study in prudence, probity and openness. This is what the Senate requires at this time. A leadership that would show demonstrable transparency enough to attract and earn public confidence. In reality, public confidence in the legislature has grossly ebbed over the years. The leader who will restore such public confidence is one who has walked this path before. Umahi has.
It bears repeating here that before the emergence of Umahi as governor, the good people of Ebonyi State had lost confidence in the leadership of their state, which was ingloriously tagged the poorest state in the South East and one of the poorest in the country. But all that has changed under Umahi. In the National Bureau of Statistics index over the past seven years, there has been incremental movement of the state out of the bracket of the poorest states in the country.
For instance, Sokoto, Bayelsa, Jigawa, Kebbi and Gombe States have been ranked as the poorest states in Nigeria based on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (2022) report released by the NBS. Ebonyi used to be in this club of poorest states. Not anymore! Umahi has consciously navigated Ebonyi out of the inglorious club of poorest states in Nigeria. His imprints in public healthcare, education, agriculture, infrastructure development meant that more jobs have been created and more capacities built among the people. This has restored public confidence in governance in the state.
The 10th Senate needs an Umahi, a governor who achieved much with little resources just by applying the basic principles of prudence, local content and capacity and transparency in public funds management.
His experience in the private sector before joining active politics and serving at various times as the chairman, Ebonyi State chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party, deputy governor and now governor equips him with the knowhow to manage the Senate, an assembly of sages and sound minds, most of whom flaunt scholarship and experience spanning both private and public sectors.
By early June when the 10th Senate would be inaugurated, Umahi would be barely weeks shy of his 60th birthday. This makes him not too young and not too old to lead an expectedly robust National Assembly. He is a perfect bridge between the old and the young.
The President-elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is a good head hunter. He has a clear vision of what he wants and who he wants to help him achieve set goals. Peradventure the All Progressives Congress zones the presidency of the Senate to the South East, he will do well to look in the direction of Umahi, a man who has a result-oriented political pedigree just like Tinubu.
Umahi as president of the Senate will bring stability, maturity, sagacity and tolerance to the rubric of the Upper Legislative Chamber. This is what the Tinubu Presidency requires. a Senate president that combines proven scholarship with character, integrity, experience and a healthy track record for efficient and prudent management of public funds.
In effect, a Tinubu Presidency requires an Umahi Senate presidency to fire governance at its full throttle to overawe the challenges of the moment: Insecurity, economic downturn, and general social discontent among Nigerians.
· Nwobodo, a political analyst, writes from Abuja.